A woman with a pistol hijacked a helicopter yesterday and forced the pilot to land in a state prison yard, where she picked up three inmates and escaped after shooting a guard who tried to pull the men down, authorities said.
The woman and prisoners, including a murderer, flew about four miles north of the Perry Correctional Institution to a pasture, where they abandoned the two-passenger craft. They released the pilot unharmed and apparently fled to a waiting car.
Greenville County Sheriff Johnny Mack Brown said the unidentified woman went to Palmetto Helicopters near Donaldson Center, an industrial air park, about 9:45 a.m. and said she had never ridden in a helicopter.
The woman leased the chopper, flown by Larry Green, 34, who has been a pilot for 18 years, including two tours in Vietnam. "When they were in the air, she pulled a gun, put it to his head, said 'Take me to Perry,' and he did," said Hal Leslie, a Department of Corrections spokesman.
They landed inside the medium-to-maximum security prison complex about 10 a.m., and five inmates from a group of about 200 ran toward it. "The pilot said, 'I can't take that many,' and two either jumped or were pushed off," Leslie said.
Seconds later, the guard, William T. Wade, was shot as he tried to pull some inmates off, Leslie said. Tower guards fired at the helicopter as it departed but apparently missed, Leslie said. Wade was reported in serious condition.